A visit to Armenia is not complete without savoring gata, the quintessential Armenian pastry that takes pride of place at celebrations and even boasts a namesake national festival. To say that gata—whether crispy or flaky, with or without a buttery filling of nuts and raisins—is one of the most famous pastries around the world is no overstatement.
One of the best places to experience authentic gata is the bakery or gatnots (as the locals call it) located near the tenth-century Haghartsin monastic complex in northeastern Armenia’s Tavush region. Thanks to the culinary creativity of Varda Avetisyan, the founder of restaurants Tava and Kchuch, visitors to Haghartsin can roll up their sleeves for an unforgettable gata baking experience, after which they may savor the pastry along with home-made cream and a cup of black coffee or tea.
The experience is not merely preparing a traditional gata to your liking; it is first and foremost getting to know the diverse culinary history of the country while trying your hand in making its staple national pastry. The gata’s simple list of ingredients and subtle variations produce one of the world’s most recognizable and delicious pastries.
Before or after visitors enjoy this culinary experience, they should also be sure to visit the Haghartsin monastic complex. Shielded by densely forested mountain ridges that look like clam shells preciously protecting a lustrous pearl, the monastery is a top draw for both local and foreign tourists who seek a peaceful antidote to modern hectic life. The ancient cross-stones, the hideaway, and the underground tunnel in the complex are just some of the mysteries awaiting visitors to the area.